Bret Allain knew what had to happen. Allain figured there had to be a way to allow in-state and visiting fishermen an opportunity to eat the fish they caught near a place they caught them.
And he knew he was in the right place to do it, the Louisiana Senate.
Allain, who holds the senate seat from Franklin, authored a bill two years ago that let fishermen take their catch to a restaurant and have it prepared and served that same day.
“Everyone I talked to supported it. It was something long overdue, something that married the best we have to offer in our state, and we all know our fishing is the best there is in our country, and our restaurants are the best, too,” Allain said a handful of days ago, the night before he was joined by a cadre of others, including media folks, to participate in the unveiling of the Louisiana Catch-and-Cook Program.
“I don’t know of any opposition to the bill,” Allain said. “It passed the House and the Senate unanimously.
“It had broad support from (the Coastal Conservation Association) and (the Louisiana Restaurant Association) and many others.”
There were some hoops to jump through after the bill became Act 577, mostly with regards to safe-handling practices after the catch and at restaurants that needed an OK from the state Department of Health and Hospitals and LRA input before state Wildlife and Fisheries folks were ready to set program rules.
That done earlier this year, it was time to get the ball rolling. It started at Theophile Bourgeois’ Fishing Charters in Lafitte and the plan was to put six boats on the water the next morning and catch enough fish to feed 40 that same night at Galatoire’s restaurant in New Orleans.
Galatoire’s top man Melvin Rodrigue urged the group to target speckled trout for the famed eatery’s signature Trout Almondine, but said chefs were ready to prepare anything caught the next morning.
And there was a variety: trout, redfish, flounder and black drum, all of which fit Rodrigue’s bill.
“We are committed to serving the freshest of Louisiana’s indigenous seafood bounty,” Rodrigue said. “Many of our patrons are avid fishermen and the opportunity to prepare their catch with Galatoire’s signature style is one we are pleased to accommodate through the Catch-and-Cook Program.”
LDWF assistant secretary Randy Pausina said 14 restaurants have signed on, and said the department of Wildlife and Fisheries will post them and other joining the program on its website. LRA boss Stan Harris said his office is working with the LDWF and Allain’s office to promote awareness among restaurants.
There will be a preparation and service fee charge by the restaurtants.
Catch-and-Cook guidelines are listed at www.fishla.org/catch-and-cook/.